Saturday, May 25, 2013

Calls and Likes

When I first moved to the United States as a teenager, Americans kept asking me, “do you like it here?” As the good Haitian that I was, the focus on this question made little sense to me: what did it matter? My parents decided to move the family, so there we all were. Besides, being in the US was a good thing, a benefit of which countless Haitians could only dream. 

But those Americans were right: “likes” are important. My Christian faith says so.

We readily accept that God “calls” missionaries to Haiti, but I do not believe God calls people to places they do not like. As our creator, God forms and knows the desires of our hearts, and as our Father, he takes pleasure in granting them because they both fulfill his plans and make us happy.

So I must now inquire of missionaries: do you like it here? Do you like Haiti?

This question is of capital importance. It demands an answer for the well-being of all us: missionaries, Haitians – Haiti. For when we like or love, our actions fall in a protected class. The impact of our good deeds is amplified beyond our imagination. A simple smile to a stranger sustains him, unbeknownst to us, for a whole day, encouraging him to show kindness in return to those around him. And our mistakes, no matter what they are, inflict less damage. It is as if nature itself says, “I know what you mean.”

My God, Paul was right. Love is essential. I believe it is essential because it brings joy: we are just happy, almost independently of the folks around us. (“Happiness floats,” reminds us Naomi Shye.) And a happy person is a kind person. He goes above what is required or expected, effortlessly. He practices all good things: gratitude, humility, understanding, empathy, explaining away slights and wrongs, genuine apologies, beautifying eyes, desire to please. All things needed in Haiti.

If you cannot answer yes to that question, please check the “call.” God means for us all to be happy.

Friday, May 17, 2013


In his documentary “Assistance Mortelle,” director Raoul Peck, of Haitian descent, recounts in two hours what is by now an obvious, undenied and undeniable truth about post-quake Haiti: the untold treasures sent or given by well-meaning people (mostly foreigners) to help Haitian victims did very little good. Instead, they were wasted by (mostly foreign) corrupt or incompetent people or systems.

In spite of the very dreary feel and look of the film (did the quake’s rubble piles reach all the way to the sky, hiding the country’s breathless sunsets?), one scene is memorable. Jean-Max Bellerive, the former Haitian Prime Minister/Minister of External Cooperation/Co-chair of Reconstruction Commission (with Bill Clinton), groans: “if the international community cannot solve Haiti, what else would they be able to solve.”

His question left me stunned with shame, anger, disbelief. That man held three key roles for the country in the post-quake period (not even President Preval was more important!), and yet he felt quite comfortable telling the world that it was their duty to “solve” our problems.  How could he be so unworthy?

That moment confirmed for me an unshakable truth.

In Haiti, both national and international entities often promote “consultation” and “participation” of “all stake holders” as essential tools of a successful (Haitian) society.  Seeing Mr. Bellerive’s self-damning question, I was reminded that those groups are wrong: what we need above all in this country is one true leader, responsible, bold, and visionary.